The Kentucky Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 23 Monday to expand access to DNA testing to prisoners seeking to prove their innocence. The current law only allows for death row inmates to have access to DNA testing.
The bill “is a matter of justice” for the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, reported the Richmond Register.
Although the bill is a significant improvement, it does allow prosecutors to exclude those who plead guilty or take an Alford plea.
Kentucky’s chief Public Advocate, Ed Monahan and Innocence Project Director of State Legislative Reform, Joe Blaney contend there are times when an innocent defendant may agree to plead guilty for a variety of reasons, usually to avoid an even longer or harsher sentence. Of the 302 people who were wrongfully convicted and later proven innocent by DNA evidence, nearly 10 percent entered guilty pleas.
A similar bill in the House which does not include the exceptions of guilty or Alford pleas is being sponsored by Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow and will receive a hearing Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee.
Forty-nine states have some form of law permitting inmates access to DNA testing. Oklahoma has no law granting such access.